Sunday, February 19, 2017

Election: The Calvinist Arminian Debate; Are both wrong? Part 4

This is the last post in this series for a while. You can find the other three at these links; Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3. My suggestion is that you read them all together as they are each a part of a whole. I want to spend this last post of the series discussing the implications.

The question then becomes, what is God's role in salvation, and what is the believers role if any? Is there in fact a synergistic aspect to salvation? The Calvinist would say no, Christ did not die for anyone he doesn't save, and the Arminian would say yes Christ died for the world. I want to use this passage as a jumping off point: Ephesians 1:3-6 NASB "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (4) just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love (5) He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (6) to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved." Let me state first, that while Paul later on in this chapter uses us and you as Jew and Gentile, in this verse the us is both Jew and Gentile. This is assured by the phrase, "he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself." The ones that are adopted as sons and daughters are the ones that believe in Jesus whether Jew or Gentile.

So then, the above passage from Ephesians is an unalterable redemptive decree. What I mean is, it is stated in such a way, so if anyone was to change the meaning from reading another passage, it would simply no longer be true at all. Further, it states that God chose redemption before creation and it was so that His grace would be glorified. The glory of God's grace was his purpose in creating the world according to Paul in this passage. Think about that, God's purpose in creation was to glorify his grace. So then, what would glorify his grace the most? The fact that He would choose some for salvation and some for damnation? The fact that he would make a way so that some could choose salvation? Or, would the fact that he was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD/KOSMOS to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them. Of course, the greatest glory to His grace would be the latter. God's grace would bring the highest glory if he forgave everyone that he had created.

If you think that people who realize they have been redeemed praise his grace, how much more will some who did not think redemption was a possibility for them, praise his grace when they ultimately discover how amazing God's grace really is? Surely then, the words of scripture, Philippians 2:10-11 NASB (10) "so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." However, there is real reason to proclaim the gospel as Paul proscribed in 2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB (20) "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." Isn't it a shame for someone to go through life, not realizing that they have in fact been reconciled to God? If someone gave you $10,000,000.00; had it in a bank in your name so that with your ID you could access it; but if you didn't know it was there, it would do you no good.  God has redeemed the world through Christ. This is the pure pristine gospel. It is not proclaimed however. Evangelical and Orthodox doctrine has hid the truth.

Many who reject Christianity, do so because they cannot accept the schizophrenic message. At the absolute worst, let's say for the sake of argument that not all are saved. Let's say that some are saved, and some are given life here, and then are annihilated. Even that message would lead to the praise of God's glorious grace. Certainly, no one can honestly claim that Christianity as it is presently described, either by Arminians or Calvinists will lead to the praise of the glory of His grace. The truth is that neither group has the complete truth, and they both have partial truth. But, the pristine gospel that turned the world upside down is no longer being preached.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Election: The Calvinist Arminian Debate; Are both wrong? Part 3

This is the third post in this series. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

It is my belief that all of the discussion in the New Testament about election is there to explain why the Jews who were God's elect in the Old Testament missed out on their Messiah, and why the Gentiles who had not believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were included in the New Covenant in great numbers while the Jews were not.

Romans chapters nine, ten, and eleven are Paul's mini opus on this subject. Paul began his apostolic mission evangelizing the Jews in the diaspora. However, God had chosen him ultimately to be the apostle to the Gentiles, and not just to the Gentiles but specifically to the new creation/ new creature of the New Covenant. The timing of the New Testament writings are unique. There is a transition taking place from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. It is a gradual transition that took place in various stages. This transition began with John the Baptist, the last Jewish prophet other than Christ, and moved on through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The next phase in the transition was Pentecost, and the birth of the first Christian church... still strictly Jewish. It went on from there to the home of Cornelius, where God gave the Holy Spirit to Gentile God fearers. Shortly after that, God showed Paul that he wanted him to move on to the Gentiles and Paul was given revelation about the New Creation.

Also, during this period, it would appear to the onlooker that God had two plans in the works. One, the Old Covenant Jews following the Torah, and the second, the Christ followers made up of believing Jews and Gentiles. Both were claiming that they were the true people of God. Both sincerely thought that they were following God. Jesus told his disciples that the time would come that those who would kill and incarcerate them would believe they were doing service to God. So, when Paul wrote about awaiting the manifestation of the sons of God, he was speaking of a time when God would demonstrate who his true people, true followers were. Jesus had prophesied that this would be accomplished by the destruction of the temple. I like the way that the NLT phrases Romans 8:19 NLT "For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are." How would that come about? The first century believers thought that it would be established by the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. Yes, the manifestation of the sons of God was accomplished by the destruction of the temple. This is a theme throughout the book of Hebrews that I believe is the Rosetta Stone of the New Covenant.

The emphasis on election then was not to show that God arbitrarily elected some to salvation. It was to deal with the reasons for the rejection of many of the Old Covenant Jews. However, Paul also states that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. The unbelieving Jews were not eliminated from God's plan for all which was eternal life. They were hardened for a time, until the fullness of the Gentiles were brought into the New Covenant. If you look at Part 2 of this series you will discover that there are three distinct ages... Adam to Abraham.... Abraham to Christ.... Christ to the year 2000 give or take.... and there is now quite likely the beginning of yet another age. I would also call those ages, "humanity in general".... "Old Covenant"...... "Christian Church".... and the age we are now approaching "New Jerusalem." I predict that this age will be one of inclusion. However, the Old never dies easily, and Judaism is still alive and well today.

So then, there is an alternate way to look at the facts. If presuppositions change, the paradigm can shift, and for me it has. Once a person has changed the presuppositions, then either paradigm can be valid and that is where using the preponderance of the scriptural evidence comes into play to convince one of the correctness of a paradigm. There is an equally valid alternative way to look at election. This is my reason for this series. It will never be understood completely without reading the entire series and that means looking forward to subsequent posts as well.

More to come!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Election: The Calvinist Arminian Debate; Are both wrong? Part 2

In the previous blog post in this series, I began to look at Calvinism and Arminianism and their treatment, understanding and teaching about election and salvation. I am offering a third possibility. All of us have presuppositions that we bring to scripture. As I have shown over and over on this blog, even Jesus and his first century followers, had presuppositions with respect to scripture interpretation. They presupposed that Jesus was the fulfillment of scripture, they defined the gospel as the word of God instead of scripture, and they saw scripture as solely redemptive. Further they presupposed that the impending judgment of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the temple was the fulfillment of the day of the Lord as prophesied by the Prophets.

Since the Old Testament, Tanakh, spoke often of Israel's election by God, it was necessary for the first century writers of the New Testament scripture to deal with election, and God's choice of Israel the nation. This becomes the source of the Calvinism/Arminian debate. First, let me state unequivocally, that God is absolutely sovereign. It can be no other way. While both Calvinists and Arminians are in error, the Calvinists are right about God's sovereignty. It is necessary that God elects those who are saved or are not saved. The question is whether or not the election is limited or unlimited. Certainly, one cannot deal with this unless one deals with the concept of judgment and hell. Moreover, it is somewhat dependent on whether or not hell is eternal torture. If election is being elected to eternal salvation, and the non-elected are provided a life here on earth and then annihilated, it is a different matter than if the non-elect are given eternal torture, and separation from God eternally. This is especially true because there is no choice available.

So then, let me deal with one aspect of the doctrine of hell. Jesus use of Gehenna, which is translated as hell in the KJV Bible is metaphorically speaking of the impending judgment on Jerusalem. I have written a blog post about the connection between Mark 9:44-48 and Isaiah 66 it entitled "Jesus Teaching on Hell" Read it for an in-depth look at how I believe much of the teaching on hell as eternal torture is just plain erroneous. If one accepts the concept of annihilation, then Calvinism becomes more palatable, yet, I personally still think it is error. In either event, the teaching about election deals with Israel, God's stated elect from the Old Testament, and the concept of the election as it relates to the bulk of the natural elect, missing out on Jesus and being judged for that. I accept the fact that biblical history deals with two, two thousand year ages. There is Adam to Abraham, and Abraham to Christ. Since that time, another two thousand year age has transpired. Let's call it the age of the Gentiles or the church age. Are we in fact moving into yet another age? I think it is possible.

With that in mind, let's look at God's actual position and view of humanity. Genesis 1:31 NASB "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." God was happy with his creative work including mankind. He said it was VERY GOOD! This of necessity is God's view of humanity forward, the fall notwithstanding. Yet, from Adam to Abraham, most of the people did not see God as gracious and believe in His love and grace. So the first two thousand year age no one acknowledged God except a few. With Abraham, God chose a specific people to show his mercy and grace. You then have the age of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through Moses and the Prophets, all the way up to the resurrection. The Jews focused on the Law and missed God's grace. Finally, you have the birth of the church of Jesus, and God included the Gentiles, in fact, in this age it was mostly the Gentiles that heard about God's grace. Yet, they too added religion to God's grace and missed just how loving and gracious God really is.

Now look at this from Romans eleven; Romans 11:25 NASB For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; The fullness of the Gentiles is the fullness of the church age. Two thousand years have passed and the church has not done a much better job with the pure gospel than the Jews did. This makes it plausible to see the following passage as declaring yet another age. Romans 11:30-32 NASB "For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, (31) so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. (32) For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all." The approaching age will be indicative of the passage that directly follows this one...  Romans 11:33-36 NASB "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (34) For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? (35) Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? (36) For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen." It is plausible that we are now heading into the mercy on ALL age. It was a mystery but is now being revealed. Certainly there is still reason to preach the gospel. We should, like Paul explained in 2Cor 5, encourage all people to be reconciled to God... Why, because God was in Christ, reconciling the WORLD not the ELECT. Yes world/KOSMOS so this passage does not fit nicely with Calvinism but works well with the fact that ALL  are elected to redemption and reconciliation. In this scenario God remains sovereign in election.

More to come.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Election: The Calvinist Arminian Debate; Are both wrong? Part 1

I have avoided the topic of election for some time now. However, I can no longer remain silent. The debate goes all the way back to Augustine and Pelagius. It is the great divide in Protestant theology. The question is this; is God sovereign, or does humanity have a choice when it comes to salvation? I will likely alienate many in both camps. However, I deem it necessary. It appears that the bible teaches both, and because of this, a great debate ensues. Both sides accuse the other side of being heretical. I think that the debate comes from a total misunderstanding of scripture. In shifting my paradigm, I have come to realize that so much of what evangelical theologians , see as obvious is merely a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of scripture. In no idea is this more true, than election.

First off, let's look at election. It is prevalent throughout scripture. God elected Abraham to bring forth the seed of blessing. Old Testament Israel was elected to be the vehicle by which the Messiah would come. Pharaoh was elected to show God's power. Election merely shows God's sovereignty. When one thinks about it. God must be sovereign, or He would not be God. The very concept of an all knowing, ever and all present, and all powerful God demands sovereignty. One cannot say that God in His sovereignty has given humanity choice, because the minute one says that humanity has more power than God. If humans have a choice in salvation, then they in essence become their own savior. God is left powerless in the salvation realm to the choice of humanity. Ultimately theology demands that God is sovereign.

On the other hand, if God is sovereign, and some people are not saved, then it is of necessity that God elected some to damnation. Even if one says that God foreknew that some would not be saved, the knowing, in and of itself makes God ultimately responsible for their damnation because knowing they would not be saved, He created them anyway. How can this possibly be reconciled with the statement that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance? Certainly this is a dilemma. Yet, if God is truly sovereign and truly does not wish that any should perish, then quite frankly none will perish or God is not sovereign.

Because they mistakenly believe that the scripture teaches this kind of election, there are some that actually believe and teach that God elects people to salvation and damnation. They are fearful of questioning themselves because they are so certain that the scripture teaches this form of election. They never really then ask themselves what kind of a God would create creatures to damn to eternal torture? The reverse however creates complete chaos. When one can choose to be saved or reject salvation, they can never really know if they are truly saved, or if they will stay saved. At least for those who believe in Jesus, election offers the comfort of remaining saved. So I am not in any way siding with the Arminians. Their theology is equally destructive and I believe equally wrong.

What if election was time specific? What if, election was a first century phenomenon that was used by God to include the Gentiles in the good news? What if Paul's mentions of election, as well as Jesus mentions of election, were to explain why many of the Jews who had been Torah Observant missed out on the Messiah, and why the Gentiles who had not sought after God, were included in the New Covenant? When one examines Romans 9, 10, and 11 it becomes clear that Paul, after explaining the gospel of grace, spends time explaining why the Jews missed out on Christ, and the Gentiles were recipients. It is parenthetical.

Jesus' words, "too whom much is given, much is required" explains God's ultimate plan for the Jews and the New Covenant. The blessings of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants carried responsibility. Yes, the Jews were originally elected by God to bring about the promised Seed of Abraham. And, the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable.

The below passage is misunderstood by all. Yet it truly gives the answer to God's sovereign plan. "God has shut up ALL in disobedience so that he can show mercy to ALL." It brings about the hopefulness of universal salvation, determined by an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and sovereign God. I will posit this portion of Romans 11 for you to peruse and ponder. Romans 11:25-36 NASB "For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; (26) and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB." (27) "THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS." (28) From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; (29) for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (30) For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, (31) so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. (32) For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. (33) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (34) For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? (35) Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? (36) For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."

Much more to come!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Serving in the Newness of the Spirit Part 1

Romans 7:6 NASB "But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter."

What did Paul mean when he had his amanuensis pen this verse? Yes, Paul did not actually pen his own epistles and if you don't know, it would be good to look up amanuensis. Why do I always digress? It must be the teacher in me LOL. Meanwhile, back to the topic at hand, seriously, what does serve in the newness of the Spirit mean? And further, what does the oldness of the letter mean? Actually today, especially in constitutional law, we frequently hear the term "spirit of the law." In this case it means what the original authors of the law had in mind when they wrote it. However, I do not think that is what Paul referred to in Romans 7:6. He was contrasting serving in the *spirit* and serving in the *letter* and the most important take-away is that they are contrasting or opposite concepts.

Yet, when one looks historically, at orthodox doctrine, it becomes crystal clear that it has a read and do focus that is akin to the Pharisees of the first century. There is no possible way that serving in the newness of the Spirit will coincide with this read and do focus. The reason is that the Pharisees focus of scripture coincides directly with the oldness of the letter. It is a polar opposite to the newness of the spirit. So what exactly is the newness of the spirit? Well, since it was contrasted with the oldness of the letter, then it must be understood to be related to scripture interpretation. I think this is precisely where the scripture focus of Jesus and his followers comes into play. As I have established over and over, in this blog, with a preponderance of evidence, Jesus, and his first century followers focus was extremely targeted. It was solely redemptive.

Jesus was the end of the law. A proper translation would be that Jesus was the goal of the law. So then, serving in the newness of the spirit, is to serve with the indwelling Spirit of Christ. The new covenant, the only covenant that includes uncircumcised Gentiles in the people of God, does not make scripture a legal-constitutional document. It only sees scripture as the story of redemption, or the redemptive narrative. Under the old covenant, Israel served in the oldness of the letter. They actually broke the covenant according to Jeremiah 31, and further to the point, they actually broke it shortly after accepting it, but still it was a legal constitutional covenant. Paul's point was that since they only had the old covenant, prior to the resurrection, they could only serve in the oldness of the letter. However, now because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which installed the new covenant, it was possible to have the indwelling Spirit of Christ, thus allowing one to serve in the newness of the Spirit.

So now, we need to look at what serving in the newness of the spirit actually looks like, and how is it accomplished practically? First, let me explain what I believe the majority opinion is on this within orthodox/evangelical doctrine. In the evangelical view, serving in the newness of the spirit involves acknowledgement that once a person is a christian, they are empowered by the holy spirit to live a lawful life; I did not say a perfect life, I said a lawful life, and by that I mean lawful form the Law of God standpoint. I do not believe that this is correct. I believe that serving in the newness of the spirit is directly related to believing the gospel message. The message that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself not counting their trespasses and he further made him who knew no sin to be made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Believing this no matter what produces the fruit of the Spirit. It produces love for God ultimately, and that comes through peace and joy. Love, joy and peace ultimately lead to all the other spiritual fruit. However, that will only happen as one rests in the truth of the above gospel message. If you have a group/the body all rehearsing and believing the gospel, eventually, the final fruit mentioned, self-control/temperance will be there in ever increasing portions.

Romans 5:1 says it all: "Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God." Peace with God from hearing and believing the gospel message is the way one serves in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. This is why it is necessary for seasoned saints to hear the gospel over and over and over and over again! It is likewise why Paul told the Corinthians that he determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ crucified... the gospel.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The transforming gospel: Part II How the Holy Spirit Transforms Lives

If you visit the evangelical and orthodox churches across the country you will find that the majority of time, the majority of sermons, the majority of emphasis focuses on using scripture as a prescription for aiding the saint to become a better person, a better Christian. They view the gospel as an evangelical tool to help bring converts to Christ. Further, they believe that once a person is "saved" they need to use scripture to show them how to live as a Christian. Therefore, the bulk of Sunday Morning Sermons focus on making Christians better Christians. This was not the way of the first century churches. They were all about preaching/proclaiming the gospel.

If you look at the history of revival, the greatest revivals came about from preaching the gospel of grace. A prime example of this is the revivals of George Whitfield. He proclaimed grace and the finished work of Jesus Christ. Thousands upon thousands of people were revived, drawn closer to the Spirit in those revivals.

Further, in examining the evangelical and orthodox churches across the country you will find that they all teach that the Holy Spirit enables believers to live a more Christ like life. The problem is that they do not give a hint as to how the Holy Spirit accomplishes it. I believe it to be, that they do not know how the Spirit enables a more Christ like life so they simply state it saying that if one is saved then the Holy Spirit will automatically enable them to live the Law. People act as if this process happens by spiritual osmosis. In fact, I think that this is a most appropriate way of defining the teaching on sanctification. The spiritual osmosis of the the saved saint allows and enables right living. Of course, a very apt aid in this process is reading, studying and hearing the scripture. But, is this what the first century church taught? I think not.

The first century church understood the transforming power of the gospel first hand. Further in all subsequent revivals historically, the real revivals, the preachers and evangelists understood the transforming power of the gospel. When people hear the truth, that God has redeemed them, that they have Christ's righteousness as a free gift of grace, that they can be at peace with the Father because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, that they are eternal and eternally with Christ and the Father, they begin to have peace that leads to joy and ultimately to love. This is exactly what John meant in 1 John 4:10; "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." The gospel (good news) tells the story of God's love, (God's love is the good news) because Jesus is the manifestation of God's love and Jesus is the good news/gospel. The gospel and ONLY the gospel produces genuine love for God. Let me repeat this; only the gospel produces genuine love for God.

Love for God is the way that the Holy Spirit helps to change the hearts and behavior of the saints. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel to assure you that God is love. It is NOT OSMOSIS. It is the transforming power of the gospel. It can never be preached too often or too much. The more the gospel is preached, the more ones love for God grows. This is the ONLY reason for saints to come together. It is to share, rehearse, proclaim and BELIEVE  the gospel.... Why don't most preachers see this? Why don't most churches do this? I will guarantee that if great numbers of churches began to understand and do this, they would be full to overflowing. People would be shouting and praising God for real... not ginned up by some praise and worship leader that uses shame to get people on their feet praising God.

The transforming power of the gospel is God's way of transforming lives... would to God that the current leaders would repent and preach the gospel; that they would determine to know nothing save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Misunderstanding Holiness: The error of the holiness movement

There are many verses in the New Testament scripture that refers to holiness. Unfortunately, there are those who erroneously think that holiness is something that saints can do or become. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be farther from the truth. Sanctification is something that is done for the saint by God and growing in holiness is something that accompanies the transformation power of the gospel. This is a continuation of the last blog post  "The Transforming Gospel."

The truth is that many a life has been shipwrecked by the error of holiness, and specifically the Pentecostal movement known as Holiness Churches. The reason for this is that in holiness, as defined by the Holiness Church, it is all self effort. Holiness is something one does. Being sanctified is earmarked by a set of observed behaviors. In fact, the Holiness Church ignores the most important of all concepts, the transforming power and action of the gospel message. Now I realize that it would seem in reading the New Testament that there is a strong case for the necessity of holiness. The problem is that it has been sorely misunderstood. There are many scriptures that the Holiness Church uses to prove the necessity of the holy life. However, they do not mean what the connotation placed on them by the Holiness Church has given them. I will give an example. Hebrews 12:14 KJV  "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:" Pretty straight forward and clear right? WRONG!

Holiness begins with the Greek word HAGIAZO... this means to make holy. It is also used for sanctify, sanctified and sanctification. Then we have HAGIASMOS... this means to become holy or to move toward holiness and sanctification; to become sanctified. Next comes HAGIOS, this word is translated saint in the New Testament scripture. Finally, there is HAGION... this is a sanctuary or a consecrated place. They can be found in Strong's Greek Dictionary as 37, 38, 39, and 40 respectively. I list all of these here because they will aid in showing just how far off the mark the Holiness Church Movement is. Let me give you a hint right now. Anyone's holiness begins with HAGIAZO which God did FOR US in Christ, and HAGIASMOS is something that is done supernaturally over time by hearing the gospel. We, by the act of God in Christ, become HAGIOS, and at the same time we are the HAGION for the Spirit of Christ here on earth. Absolutely none of this is done by our effort, and most definitely, it is not accomplished by our reading and doing. The fact is that the so called Holiness Church has a different gospel. It is a damaging gospel as it kills spirituality.

So let's use the example form Hebrews listed above. There is no way that one could say that the author of Hebrews means what the Holiness Church teaches it means. The reason is that the same author stated a redemptive decree in Hebrews 10:10-14 KJV.  "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  (11)  And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:  (12)  But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;  (13)  From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.  (14)  For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." There is no possible way that the Hebrew writer could have meant what the Holiness Church has claimed for Hebrews 12:14. Paul also writes similarly.  1 Corinthians 1:30 KJV  But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: God made Jesus our sanctification, or in other words our holiness.... and again.... 2 Thessalonians 2:13 KJV  But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:

So what about HAGIASMOS? Well, this is where the previous blog post comes into play. Hearing the gospel over and over again builds our peace with the Father and causes us to love the Father "for real" at a depth that is impossible without the gospel. It is from this place that our HAGIASMOS, sanctification and holiness grows ever stronger and more and more like our Savior. However, law and the striving for holiness actually kills this supernatural spiritual movement in our hearts.

The Holiness Church needs to REPENT!!!

The Transforming Gospel...

Romans 12:2 NASB "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect."

The perfect will of God is as follows: John 6:40 NASB "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." The will of the Father is simple... He wants everyone to accept the reconciliation he provided in Jesus Christ. The fact is that the gospel should be transforming. Let me repeat that for effect. The gospel SHOULD be transforming. The gospel should be transforming all by itself. How does it work you ask? Great question! The answer is simple. The gospel gives one peace with the Father. Once the gospel is believed, apprehended... peace/shalom with God is experienced. This is the fertile ground of the gospel seed. The gospel seed brings about the fruit of transformation. Therefore, it is imperative that one renews their mind continually to the gospel. Paul begs by the mercies of God, again the gospel. Anyone that wants to know what the mind must be renewed with should realize that it is the gospel. It is not the Law. It is not the scripture. Yes, if one is to ever experience transformation, it has to come from the gospel and grace. 

Unfortunately current evangelical and orthodox doctrine is WAY off the mark in this regard. Almost universally, people are taught that they need to renew their mind to the scripture and especially the law. This is completely the opposite of what Paul was getting at when he wrote the first two verses of Romans chapter 12. The mind of the saint MUST  be renewed to the gospel for transformation to ensue. This is why it seems that people are so spiritually dead... especially those in the church. The vibrant ones are vibrant in spite of church doctrine. They are vibrant because deep down in their Spirit they realize that God is graceful and they actually rest in his peace. The really vibrant ones do not FEAR God, rather they truly love Him. Not because of the commandment, but because they have renewed their mind to the gospel. Gospel is good news. It is truly good news that one can have peace with God the Father on the basis of the actions of the Lord Jesus Christ, and him alone. Now hear me, let him who has ears hear the Spirit right now. It takes more for some of us to be at peace with God than others. Not because of God, but because of our faith. Therefore, in order for the gospel to transform, grace must be UNLIMITED!

Yet, today, most of the focus of evangelical Christianity is on self reformation. The jumping off point for this is reading scripture, especially the Law portions, and striving to be better, striving to be more Christ like. Reformation is a fleshly pursuit. It is not placed on the supernatural foundation of true transformation. The majority of evangelicals are caught up in the rat race of being reformation worker bees. Most of what they do is focused on self improvement. This all in the light of, Paul stating, that in him, that is in his flesh, there dwells no good thing. This is not as so many think that Paul is self loathing. No, it is Paul admitting that aside from the gospel of Christ, and God's redemption plan he does not stand a chance of pleasing God. The gospel that Paul and the first century Christian leaders taught is a different gospel than what is taught today. The reality is that evangelical Christianity has developed and is teaching a different gospel.. It is a gospel that demands self effort and reformation in addition to the transforming work of Jesus Christ.

Still, this knowledge is just that, merely knowledge, without the strength of the unified body of Christ, the ekklesia, the called out ones. The transformation, to be ultimately successful requires the body believing the gospel. Until there are groups of saints that join in regularly to renew their minds to the gospel... notice I said to the gospel and not to the scripture and law. The full transformation will not take place, rather it is still-born. People are fearful of trusting completely in grace. They have been duped by ignorant and many times arrogant leaders that make them think they are heretics for believing the gospel of grace. Oh, these leaders talk about grace, but only in a schizophrenic way. They do not allow the time or the atmosphere for the gospel to really transform. These leaders, will ultimately face judgment for their error but not in a time frame that will help the saints move forward in the transformation process.

I challenge anyone to go to any church, pay close attention, and it will become evident that the focus is not on the gospel. Sunday after Sunday the main focus will be on self improvement. It will focus on read and do and not believe and be. NOTHING, in scripture can be properly taught until the gospel and grace are paramount, foundational, and the only focus. There needs to be a paradigm shift that will allow the many things covered in the scripture to be understood within their contextual and historical significance. While I want to see the saints transformed, I also want to see the leadership cease and desist from the current error that they operate under. Stop reading the scripture as a legal constitutional document and begin to see it solely as the redemptive narrative.

She/He who has an ear let him/her hear!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

You are already Holy, Hebrews 10:14 & Romans 7:6

Two verses that I believe are connected
I am using the HCSB here because I think it most closely clarifies the thoughts of the KJV in these two passages:
Hebrews 10:14 HCSB For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified.
Romans 7:6 HCSB But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law.

Of all the concepts in the gospel of Christ, the one that the evangelical church and orthodoxy have gotten the most wrong, is the concept of sanctification and specifically the operation and workings of sanctification in the life of the saint. This is the place where churches that emphasize holiness are so destructive to their members. Let me share what I believe most of them teach. I am going to list it in bullet form:

  • After the person is converted the Holy Spirit enables one to live the law
  • One must strive at all costs to study and remain holy by the standards provided
  • Over a long period of self discipline and study the saint will become more and more holy.
  • One who cannot do this should question the fact of their salvation
  • If you can't live holy, maybe you should examine to see if you are really saved.
The above bullet points could not be FURTHER from the truth and are in and of themselves very destructive and debilitating to the saints progress. I think that Hebrews 10:14 explains that one is already completely holy, and that it was accomplished on the cross with Christ and it is *already done.* Hebrews 10:14 states that by the one sacrifice of Christ, once for all, one is perfected and sanctified. Yet, in daily observation of a newly converted saint, one does to see this. Which is precisely where the concepts in Romans 7:6 come into play. Therefore, it is important to understand how to serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the letter. This in a nutshell is where orthodox evangelicalism, and orthodoxy in general have failed miserably over the years since the resurrection.

So then, what does it mean to serve God in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the letter of the law? Well, let's look at the obvious first. The Romans passages says NOT in the old way of the letter of the law so that right there eliminates the possibility of the saint being sanctified by law obedience. Even Calvin and Luther, two staunch grace preachers were schizophrenic in this regard. Calvin came out and said it in a way that has been quoted over the years. He said, " faith alone justifies, but faith that justifies is never alone." While this is true, he basically subscribed to the first bullet point without really examining the operation and catalyst of it.

The phrase, "serving in the new way of the spirit" needs some unwrapping and explanation. We have already seen that... somehow just magically walking in the law... is not possible, and Paul uses the entire chapter 7 in Romans to make that point. It's interesting that he ends it in this fashion. Romans 7:24-25 HCSB "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body? (25) I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin." Let me try to unwrap this for your.  The answer is the gospel. Before you say "no duh" consider this. Sanctification is a process. It happens over time I know, the passage above from Hebrews says that it is already accomplished. It is. But still, we are left with the need to serve in the new way of the Spirit. This speaks of a process.

How does the gospel sanctify us practically you ask? By continually hearing it over and over. Yes, you are reading correctly. The gospel must be rehearsed over and over, and that is where the body of Christ becomes so important. But, in order for the gospel to be able to aid in the sanctification process, one cannot be subjected to the law. That is where the schizophrenia comes into play. It is not believe the gospel live the law. It is believe the gospel. Every time the saint hears the gospel, the Spirit uses that hearing to solidify our love for God. It is done based upon his grace. Fear is cast aside. Genuine love for God ensues. Now then, the one resting in grace, at peace with the Father as the result of Jesus finished work, can then allow the law to inform them about what pleases God and then and only then, can naturally allow their absolute faith in the gospel of grace, to begin to foster the desire to please God for real. Not from fear from love.

Here is the problem. When one accepts the bullet points above, the focus is placed on the law and pleasing God, and not on grace and what God accomplished with Jesus. You are better off to be void of hearing any messages if you are not hearing the gospel. However, until evangelical doctrine embraces this, until there are a multitude of local bodies that understand this, the church will remain in bondage and true holiness will never happen! True holiness can only come from an emphasis on the gospel and if that causes some to feel free to sin, then they must do that until the wages of sin weighs so hard on them that they will want to allow the gospel to right their ways. It saddens me deeply to see so much error, and to see so many in fear fraught bondage. Start preaching the *gospel only* today! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

My Righteous Servant Will Justify Many

Isaiah 53:11 NIV  After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

Do we need to measure up to God's standards, or does God accept us... as we are... based on the fact that he is the one that made us? The mission of Jesus, stated so well in Isaiah chapter 53, tells us that God provided a way for us to be justified, made right. God did not need Jesus to fulfill Isaiah 53. We did!

Yes, because of the fall, which gave us the ability to to know good from evil, we erroneously always judge ourselves evil. This is mainly because of the fact that we do not accept God's original declaration about us in Gen 1:31. We are born into the world with unbelief. We are born not sure of our relationship with God. We are born without proof that God exists. We are born unsure. We are born into mortality, and relatively soon find out that at some point we will die, and with that knowledge, we desperately want to justify ourselves. But, when you and I are alone, no one around, looking in the metaphorical mirror, we know that we fall short on so many levels, and cannot truly find justification within ourselves. This makes us want to survive as long as possible, and all of our selfishness streams from this. Genesis 1:31 is nice, but it cannot cleans our conscience. I would say that the most self-assured of us, down deep, feel inadequate and unworthy. It may not show. We may even over compensate. But at the lower level where reality collides with our conscious mind, WE ALL, sense we somehow fall short. I am simply identifying the problem to which Christ is the solution. The prophets have addressed this and Isaiah himself says that all of our righteousness are as filthy rags, (menses cloth's.)

Here in lies the need for imputed righteousness and justification from a source outside ourselves. I especially want to get to the "goody-two-shoes" of the world that are so confident that they are following God's plan and pleasing him. Can I tell on them for a minute... down deep inside.. they live in constant fear. They fear that they are not really pleasing God, and all of their religious machinations, are toward that end and completely in vain. They seem to fail to comprehend the words of the Apostle Paul saying that "by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified." The worst of this element are the preachers and teachers that keep other more ignorant saints in bondage to this phenomenon, and likewise keep them in the clutches of "their" hands to manipulate and use. I think this is why so few really preach the gospel. They fear that the gospel will actually set their victims free.

Let me show you just how the Righteous Servant will justify many. Hebrews 9:14 NIV  "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" Christ offered himself to God, before the foundation of the world, that is before creation to go through the pain of death and be resurrected to show us that we are eternal and eternally loved. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:1.... "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," You can never justify yourself by acts. You can only be justified by faith, and the faith your are justified by is not your faith but the faith of Christ. It was his faith that justified the many. Look at Isaiah 53:11 again. By his knowledge of God... He justified many. His knowledge of God was informed by absolute and perfect faith. He alone was the only one who could really use the knowledge of good and evil in a justifying way. His perfect obedience was His perfect faith.

Now then, when by the gospel, the Holy Spirit convinces us that we are justified... we then develop a true peace with God that in turn generates a genuine love for God, and from this love, all of our obedience flows. Not from fear. From love! You cannot keep the love generated by justification if you are continually being put in the position of trying to please God. Fear will ensue, and love will dissipate and bondage will return. Oh the reality is you are free, but if you do not know it... if someone is keeping you following regulations, you will NEVER reap the benefits of love and peace that the gospel was meant to give.

Hebrews 10:14 NIV  "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." Read this carefully, you have been made perfect. You are being made holy. How are you being made holy? By believing the gospel; By the peace you have with God from believing that you are justified by Jesus Christ! Don't let the doctrines of men snooker you! You are being sanctified from the knowledge that you have been made perfect. God said it in Genesis 1:31, but the knowledge of good and evil in us made it so we did not believe it.... Isaiah 53 begins with "who has believed our report" BELIEVE THE REPORT!!!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Properly Understanding Hebrews 10:26-27

Hebrews 10:26-27 NIV  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,  (27)  but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

What does this passage mean? We must look to the message of the writer of Hebrews to properly understand. We make a grave mistake when we simply look at the grammar to understand the interpretation and message of scripture. We must always look at historical and grammatical context. We must always get into the mind of the writer and the reader, because void of its intended audience’s expectation and understanding, a passage could literally mean anything based on the connotation of meaning in the current reader’s definition of the words. There is no place that this is more glaring than in Hebrews 10:26.  

I can assure you, based upon careful examination of historical and grammatical context it DOES NOT mean what so many have suggested. Some have believed, that deliberate sinning is the process of committing sins on purpose repeatedly. This could not be farther from the truth in this case. The author was not speaking in terms of individual sins. The writer of Hebrews has established a specific meaning for sin in Hebrews 3:7 through 4:11. I would strongly suggest that you read this passage in several versions. I would especially suggest using the NIV and the NLT as well as the KJV and any other version you have grown to trust.

The above passage was used by the writer of Hebrews to explain to his intended audience the concept of the Sabbath and that it is a picture, type, metaphor for what the writer calls the “Sabbath Rest.” To the writer of Hebrews, the Sabbath represented a rest provided by God. To the Old Covenant Jews, it was the promise/promised land, but to the New Covenant believer, it was the redemption brought by Jesus, who is the fulfilled Sabbath and Promised Land of rest. So then, the writer of Hebrews defines sin in a very narrow way for his purpose. The writer of Hebrews defines sin and makes it synonymous with UNBELIEF. You can find this specifically in Hebrews 3:12 & 16-19. I am going to posit the latter under this paragraph so that you can see it for yourself. I am quoting the NIV, but I suggest that you read it in the KJV or whatever version you trust for yourself.

Hebrews 3:12 & 16-19 NIV  See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God…..   (16)  Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?  (17)  And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness?  (18)  And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  (19)  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Again, read the whole passage from 3:7 through 4:11 but for brevity, I have shown you the passage above. The writer in the above passage equates three terms, sin, disobedience, and unbelief. The bottom line is this. If you look at the historical context, the Hebrew Christians were in danger of rejecting Jesus and going back to Judaism as it was before the advent of the Messiah. They were being persecuted by unbelieving Jews. According to chapter 10, they had had their possessions taken from them, and were being persecuted on all sides, and it was from other Jews, their own countrymen who did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. It is in this context, that the writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 10:26, that if one WILLFULLY UNBELIEVES there remains no sacrifice for unbelief because Jesus is the only one. This is why he tells them in Hebrews 10:35 to not throw away their confidence because it has a great reward. Hebrews 10:26 relates directly to the Sabbath Rest.

The Sabbath Rest is simply believing that Jesus paid it all. It is believing that one is made righteous by the sacrifice of Jesus. That is why I so pity those who have complicated faith in Christ; those who have tied salvation to law obedience. There is an entirely different dynamic at work in the New Covenant, and still, Sunday after Sunday, preachers who are ignorant to the real gospel, and to the real operation of the New Covenant and transformation continue to prattle on and on with a mixture of law and grace, of Old Covenant and New Covenant that stifles the life of the saint.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Root out, pull down, destroy, throw down, build and plant

See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
(Jeremiah 1:10 KJV)

It is time for a little deconstruction. It is time to root out, pull down, destroy, throw down. The goal? To build and to plant. I used the word deconstruction aware of its philosophical meaning, and yes, it is appropriate, but I am also using it in the sense of the opposite of construct. In this sense construct means to build and deconstruct means to tear apart or unbuild. For roughly two thousand years now, orthodoxy has been constructing Christian doctrine. It forms the presuppositions that most theologians adhere to. I realize that there are those theologians who have deconstructed in the strict philosophical meaning and have also deconstructed much of Christian doctrine in the way I mean. However, to use an appropriate overworked cliché… they have thrown the baby out with the bath water. My purpose is different. I want to present a cleansed baby. I do not want to remove the mystical. I do not want to diminish the Holy Spirit to superstition. I want to try to uncover the significance of the cross, the gospel, and the resurrection within the frame work of the meaning of the first century authors. I want to identify their cultural beliefs, their historical context, grammatical context, and from that recover their intended meaning.

I do not simply believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a good man, a prophet, and an agent of social and religious change. I believe that there was spiritual significance to his death, burial and resurrection. I believe that it held significant benefit for mankind. I believe that Jesus was indeed the Savior of the world. I also believe that while he brought a way of natural salvation to the first century Jews, one many of them rejected, he, on a larger scale, brought spiritual salvation to all. I believe that he accomplished this by the working of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with his death, burial and resurrection. In fact, the Holy Spirit used and uses his death, burial and resurrection as a means of assuring us that we have been reconciled to God. Further that we have been brought back to the awareness of God’s view of mankind that was expressed in the ancient text in Genesis 1:31.

However, the larger problem looming today in Christian circles is the doctrine/dogma that so many have called orthodoxy. Much of Christian doctrine was constructed over the years to simply control people for the benefit of the clerics. We should not be surprised by the multimillionaire televangelists of today. After all, the popes over the years had wealth at their disposal way beyond anything that the modern day wealthy religious leader have. I should add that not all of the control is meant to acquire wealth in the name of Jesus and the church. A lot of it is to simply sustain the clerical position of control over people to get them to do what they want them to do, whether it is to pay for buildings, or attend services. A whole lot of the dogma is there simply to sustain the institution.

It is because of this that deconstruction is so important. Many advocate just letting the Holy Spirit direct people to the truth. The problem with this is most are so indoctrinated that it is difficult to even hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine and dogma is so entrenched, and so debilitating that it is very difficult for anyone to break free of it. Most people sadly believe that they too must throw out the baby with the bath water to get free of the clutches of Christian doctrine. There are so many people in bondage to the way that orthodoxy has interpreted scripture. It is difficult to escape for most people. This is why I have devoted so many key strokes to presenting a paradigm shift that will allow one to read the scripture and reject the oppressive rule of men and women. There is light at the end of the tunnel. There is a way to look at and interpret scripture that will present the baby cleansed and vibrant.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The scroll no one could open

Revelation 5:3-5 NKJV  “And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.  (4)  So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.  (5)  But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."

One of my presuppositions is that evangelical Christianity specifically, and all Christianity in general, is really the strong delusion of 2Thess 2. In other words, there has been a great apostasy from the faith of the first century found in the pages of the New Testament. This happened in the second century as the early church fathers adopted the leaven of the Pharisees to control people. It was solidified and codified at the counsel of Carthage in 397 AD. This being the case, there is really no amount of reformation that can solve the problem. Only in the restoration of the apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42) will the strong delusion go away.

We see in the above passage from Revelation chapter five the prophesy of the problem. There was a scroll that no one on earth or under the earth could open because it was sealed. Many have speculated as to the nature and content of this scroll. I believe it is very simple. In the Greek it says that it was a *biblion* bible. Yes, the sealed scroll was the sacred scripture. In Matthew 16:12 Jesus identifies the leaven of the Pharisees as their doctrine. This would include their view of the scripture as a legal constitutional document. They viewed the scripture as God’s constitution with Israel. It was a covenant with God that to them was legally binding. Jesus on the other hand taught that the scripture was a redemptive narrative that pointed to Him only (John 5:39-40.)

Now, what about the scripture being a sealed biblion/bible? In Luke’s gospel chapter 24 we find that the risen Jesus actually fulfilled the prophecy of Revelationn5:3-5. Luke 24:45 NKJV  “And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” Here you can see it plain as daylight. Prior to this no man on earth had really understood the scripture/biblion/bible. Jesus opened their understanding. The leaven of the Pharisees would never allow one to truly understand the scripture. It would be as a scroll that was sealed. This was prophesied by Isaiah. Isaiah 29:11-13 NKJV  “The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, "Read this, please." And he says, "I cannot, for it is sealed."  (12)  Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, "Read this, please." And he says, "I am not literate."  (13)  Therefore the Lord said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,” Here again is a prophecy that showed that the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and any other sect of the Jews would not understand the scripture because it was like a sealed scroll.

When Jesus told his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees it was a prophecy. It is not that it might happen. It was simply that it would happen. Jesus and his followers taught that the word of God was the gospel. The Pharisees taught that the word of God was the bible. The early church fathers allowed the leaven of the Pharisees to slowly slip in to church doctrine and went back to teaching that the scripture, and not just the gospel was the word of God. They returned the legal constitutional reading of scripture to the church. I think for the sake of control. In any event, it is the source of abuse that goes on in churches today.

Jesus opened the scroll 2000 years ago. Oh that we would begin to search out and allow the Holy Spirit to rid us of the strong delusion once and for all.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Should the average person read the scripture? Or, was the early Roman Catholic Popes correct is it too confusing?

Jesus warned, to take head, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Paul warned that after he left the Ephesians that ravenous wolves would come in and devour the flock. The history of the church is replete with excesses of exploitation and persecution of the faithful, and unfortunately it still goes on today. Oh, not many are burning at the stake, or putting people in the stocks, or holding public whippings, but we have evolved from that haven’t we? However, we still do those things psychologically. Most of it goes on in the name of obedience to leaders. People are shunned, talked about, and are given public tongue lashings, and beaten senseless with the scripture. The problem is that those giving out the punishment have little understanding of the scripture themselves. This can be true with those who have years of seminary training, and ministry experience, how much more would it be true of the self-taught who declare themselves authorities, and demand that no one ever question them. In most instances, to question leadership is tantamount to questioning God Almighty! This is the fertile ground in which spiritual abuse thrives.

I believe that the main force in this phenomenon is control. People erroneously believe that the church must be under control to function properly.  What better means of control than the Holy Scriptures? After all, if God said it then it has a force that is well beyond anything that is merely human. This is precisely however, the substance of the leaven of the Pharisees. It is born in the legal constitutional reading and understanding of scripture. If one looks at the scripture as a rule book, a blueprint for living, an instruction manual, one cannot escape spiritual abuse and further the abuse of control and power. If one’s basic foundational presupposition is that the scripture is a legal, constitutional manual then, one cannot escape the problems that I have addressed above. This is precisely the reason for all of the abuses. Jesus did not support a legal constitutional reading of scripture. He was continuously debating the Pharisees in their understanding of scripture. His main focus of the scripture is found in John chapter five, verses 39 and 40. He told the Pharisees that they were searching the scriptures to find life, but that the sole purpose of the scripture was to testify of Jesus and redemption. In looking at the scripture his way, redemptively, they would find life.

All of the passages that evangelicals use to establish church practice were written to specific occasions. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to understand exactly what the occasion was. The scripture, all of it was written to specific audiences, and when we do not take into consideration the context of the audience we miss the intended meaning. All of the authors of the scripture always wrote in view of their culture and norms. It is composed of basically two types of messages. One message is redemptive decrees, absolute promises made by God… decrees that cannot be altered, and the rest of the messages are situational and cultural within a certain time frame, primarily aimed at the original intended audience. Since it was written to specific audiences with specific situations, this prohibits the possibility of using the scripture in a legal constitutional way especially in establishing norms and rules for the church. Those who claim the name of, and claim to follow Jesus should look at scripture in the manner he taught. They should look at it as the redemptive narrative. The focal message of redemption should be guided by the decrees that are found within scripture. It is possible that the entire scripture could be viewed in an overarching guidance way as long as it is not used as a rulebook per se. However, there are very few evangelical churches if any that take this nuanced approach to scripture. The reason that I believe they do this, is that the true freedom that the Christ follower has would eliminate the ability for leadership to control people in the way that so many do. It would eliminate the institutional structure that is now in place.

I can safely say that 90% of the messages preached and heard are meant to establish and enforce the rules. This is either to control people or improve ethical behavior. It ALWAYS has the exact opposite effect as is intended. Each Sunday, Wednesday evening people feel better for a short time as they vow to do better, and always they end up falling short, and discouraged. With a legal constitutional reading of scripture, it is inevitable. All the while the true focus of scripture that Jesus and the first century writers advocated is neglected. The proclamation of the gospel does something uniquely different. It affects the Spirit Man in a different way. It causes joy and peace to well up within a person and focuses their thoughts away from their shortcomings, and redirects them to the love God has for them.  This in turn fosters a genuine love for God, and his gracious provision. The redemptive use of scripture develops love, and the legal constitutional use of scripture develops fear and guilt. It is so simple but also it is risky. It forces the Spirit of God to control people instead of leadership. It sickens me to see the countless sea of individuals bogged down and imprisoned in the abusive system that has morphed taking one form or another throughout Christian history but has had a universal result. It keeps the people that Christ died to set free in bondage to leader worship….

Oh, to answer the question in the title, let me say this. It should only be read in the way that Jesus intended. It should be read as God's redemptive narrative, a love letter from the Father!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A conversation with Jesus: Do you ever ask and have him answer? I do!

I want to share a conversation I recently had with Jesus. I realize that I have a solid intellectual understanding of guilt and forgiveness but, when it comes to accepting grace and forgiveness for me....not so much...  Here is a conversation I recently had with the Lord... real or in my mind? You decide.

My Question:  When I know that I have been forgiven, intellectually know the truth of the gospel message as I have come to know it, how can I let go of guilt and walk in forgiveness twenty-four seven?

Hi Joe Jesus here… It has been a while now, but it is good to hear from you. This is the most important question you have ever asked. It is even more important than knowing the truth. The reason is it is the way in which you put the truth into action on a day to day basis.

You have not released the assumption that you are in control. You will not allow your ego to let go of the praise, and therefore the problems that accompany praise. You have never been in control. Not even of what you think, ponder and dwell upon. It is the curse of the knowledge of good and evil. You will never see good as you only see evil. You are a prisoner to the way that seems right. That is where law righteousness resides. You cannot think your way out of this dilemma, rather you must trust your way out of it.

You have to view the absurd futility of claiming responsibility within the framework of the knowledge of good and evil. You neither see authentic good or authentic evil. You really only see need. Under the knowledge of good and evil you cannot understand God and His love/agape. You must transcend this with trust/faith. Let go of responsibility and accept grace. It is the only way. Look again at the 103rd Psalm you were reading to day and post the following verses: Psalms 103:17-18 NKJV “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children, (18) To such as keep His covenant, And to those who remember His commandments to do them.” These two verses have nothing to do with Law obedience and they cannot be read in a legal constitutional way. What are the provisions of the New Covenant? Jeremiah 31:33-34 NKJV  “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  (34)  No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." I am not remembering sin! So then, tell me why you are :)

Release your mind to the good news. You keep the covenant, and you obey the commandment/s by believing the report! You must rest in the fact that I was bruised for your iniquity, the chastisement of your peace is upon me! You must receive your peace… peace with the Father, from accepting my chastisement as debt paid in full. There cannot be a wavering in understanding with faith… faith must have total trust in the report, and even then in your frailty, you have to trust in the midst of doubt….(wrap your mind around that). As you trust in the midst of doubt you will increasingly release your guilt and begin to live guilt-free as I have ordained it should be for you and all your brothers and sisters. You are the righteousness of God the Father in me!